Tag: Mark Lazarus

Lazarus Promises to Listen to Voters, Gardner Already Has

Mark Lazarus is trying to convince voters he has undergone a character metamorphosis and is now running for county council chairman with a changed personality.
The latest is the ‘Lazarus is Listening Tour’ announced in a mailer sent to voters around the county. Putting ‘Lazarus listens’ together is one of the great oxymorons of Horry County political history.
Lazarus lost the chairmanship four years ago precisely because he didn’t listen to the voters or the many employees of county government, especially the public safety personnel.
Lazarus was not listening to the citizens about road problems that needed fixing throughout the county. He was intent on bowing to his Myrtle Beach Chamber pals and giving $40 million annually, from the county’s hospitality tax revenue, to the construction of Interstate 73 while citizens were asking for improvements on the ‘farm to market roads’, such as Hwy 90 and Hwy 905, that serve so many residents.
Lazarus was not listening to the demands of taxpayers for impact fees on new development, even though an advisory referendum showed 3 in 4 county voters wanted impact fees to help pay for the infrastructure and other services associated with new sub-divisions.
Lazarus was certainly not listening to the police and fire personnel working for the county asking for help with the long hours and low pay they were suffering from.
When challenged about how he was going to address these conditions by police and fire representatives at a community forum in Burgess, Lazarus stormed off the stage and out of the event with “I don’t have to listen to any more of this abuse.”
Lazarus and his then campaign consultant, Rep. Heather Crawford, doubled down on this demonstration that Lazarus ‘does not listen’ by calling the police and fire personnel asking the challenging questions “Thugs.”

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Will Cabal Money Overcome Citizen Interests?

The main story of the 2022 Republican Primary election campaigns in Horry County is going to be one of how the developers and tourist interests of the Myrtle Beach cabal pour money into campaigns of their preferred candidates in hopes those candidates will defeat the candidates who represent the interests of the citizens first.
Several stories have been written in local media over the past few days detailing donors to cabal favored candidates Jenna Dukes, Mark Lazarus and Carla Schuessler.
Dukes is challenging Harold Worley in Horry County District 1. Worley is the longest serving member on county council and one whose signature is to often urge the council to “Do the right thing for the people of Horry County.”
Lazarus, a former Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce board president, is challenging Horry County Chairman Johnny Gardner, who took the chairmanship from Lazarus four years ago, a defeat that Lazarus has yet to get over.
Schuessler, a former Chamber board president, is vying with Conway businessman John Cassidy in the new House District 61 seat in the county.
All three cabal candidates, Dukes, Lazarus and Schuessler were the recipients of the campaign donation largesse of cabal members and associates in the development and tourism industries as the stories in local media documented.
Dukes and Lazarus tried to paint their fundraising as coming from a broad range of donors who are anxious for change from the respective incumbents they are running against. In neither case is that narrative true. Neither has support that extends beyond the limited numbers of cabal members who can’t get their own way with Worley and Gardner and want them replaced.

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Myrtle Beach Cabal Pushing Influence in June Republican Primaries – Is it Legal?

With filing completed and the first campaign disclosure reports in, the choices in many of the June 14th Republican Primaries for local offices will be between candidates supported by the Myrtle Beach cabal versus candidates supported by the people.
In case you are confused about the makeup of the cabal, it is the development lobby that wants no restrictions and no impact fees on development in the county and the tourism lobby that continues to push for an ever more expensive proposed I-73 at the expense of local roads and other infrastructure. In other words, the group that wants to pad their pocketbooks at the expense of the taxpayers.
And because the cabal expects to pad their pocketbooks if their candidates win, it is showering the campaign accounts of its chosen candidates with dollars.
The main benefactors of cabal largesse so far are Mark Lazarus in the Horry County Chairman race, Jenna Dukes in Horry County Council District 1 and Carla Schuessler in the new House District 61. Lazarus and Schuessler are both former chairman of the Myrtle Beach Chamber board.
Lazarus has collected $138,000 in donations, Dukes received $96,000 and Schuessler received $42,000.
And one must question the due diligence the cabal uses in picking candidates to back because the word around the area is both Dukes and Schuessler have stronger ties to Democrats than Republicans.
Bill Howard, incumbent in Horry County Council District 2, may also be considered a cabal preferred candidate although he hasn’t begun collecting campaign donations yet. However, Howard donated $1,000 to Lazarus and is considered a safe vote on council for cabal interests.
Sifting through the campaign reports, Dukes received nine donations of $1,000 each from contractor Benji Hardee. Hardee reportedly convinced Dukes to run against incumbent Harold Worley because of personal animus toward Worley and his votes on county council. The nine donations are run through companies, llc’s and investment entities tied to Hardee.

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Lazarus Campaign Kickoff Attempts to Rewrite History

Mark Lazarus officially kicked off his campaign to recapture the chairmanship of Horry County Council Thursday night surrounded by his friends – Myrtle Beach Chamber and Grand Strand Business Alliance members as well as other members of the local cabal.
From the talking point clips and quotes attributed to Lazarus in local media over the last several days, it is obvious Lazarus is trying to rewrite the history of his years as chairman from 2013-2018.
Lazarus pledged to get county government ‘back on track’ when the only track it has left was the autocracy track the Lazarus years led it down toward funding I-73 and other initiatives to benefit special interests.
The most comical quote I have seen attributed to Lazarus is his promise of “investing in police services”, something he absolutely refused to do when chairman. There was a reason the police and fire organizations of Horry County endorsed current Chairman Johnny Gardner four years ago, in his run against Lazarus, and it wasn’t because Lazarus did anything to improve their lives.
The most memorable quote by Lazarus in the 2018 campaign was when he called the public safety personnel of the county “Thugs” late in the campaign because they asked him difficult questions about how they were treated at a campaign event.
In fact, Lazarus was not popular with the county employees in general as he, in coordination with former administrator Chris Eldridge, treated county employees as ‘serfs’ subject to the whims of the ruling duo.

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Chamber Political Brochure Explodes into Fight with Horry County and Voters

You have to give Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce CEO Karen Riordan credit, if there’s a way to make relations with Horry County Council members worse than they already are, she will find it.
Last week saw the Chamber send out a mail piece full of information that ranged from misleading to totally false. In today’s lexicon – Fake News
Members of county council took immediate offense at Riordan and Chamber Government Liaison Jimmy Gray, the two Chamber officials hired to replace the work of Brad Dean after Dean resigned from the Chamber and who were, reportedly, responsible for the mailer’s contents.
County council member Harold Worley led a 25-minute discussion about the real facts versus the fictitious Chamber version of the I-73 funding debate, at the end of last week’s regular meeting.
“The only thing in the Chamber brochure that was true was the one-lane on 501,” Worley said. “Everything else was a lie.”
The message in the brochure was, “Tell Horry County Council it’s time to fund I-73.”
And Riordan and her cabal minions are using these tactics to pressure county council into committing funding for Interstate 73. How’s that going?
This situation would never have happened under the watch of former Chamber CEO Brad Dean!
The two biggest whoppers in the brochure:
“We (Myrtle Beach) were one lane away from being cut off. The construction of Interstate 73 would ensure this never happens again.”
And
“Funding from the federal, state and local governments is lined up.”
Two quick responses:

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Rice Fishes for Voters While Fry Fishes for Money

It’s been one year since Congressman Tom Rice’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
That fateful January 13, 2021 vote marked the beginning of Rice’s rapid fall from grace with the Republican voters of the SC 7th Congressional District, who constitute a considerable majority of the total voters in the district.
The SC 7th Congressional District is one of the most pro-Trump Congressional districts in the nation. From a political standpoint, Rice could have done nothing worse than his betrayal of the president to the constituents he represents.
Shortly after Rice’s fatal vote, Rice’s political consultant, Walter Whetsell, the go to guy for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, told news media that a week is like a lifetime in politics and the voters would forget about the impeachment vote in a couple of weeks.
Whetsell’s statement only goes to prove how out of touch Whetsell is with the realities of current day Republicanism in the 7th Congressional District.
Rice has chosen to run for reelection telling media representatives that the Republican Party must move on from Trump and that he (Rice) will run on his record of accomplishment for the nearly 10 years he has represented the 7th Congressional District.
But, Rice has no record of accomplishment in Washington. He went to Washington with two big goals – secure funding for Interstate 73 and bring “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” to the district. Despite working with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives for his first six years there, Rice was unable to secure any significant funding for I-73.
While Rice likes to point to the Dillon inland port as an example of his ability to create jobs, that project actually owes its existence considerably more to former state Sen. Hugh Leatherman than anything Rice produced.
I-73 will probably be at the core of Rice’s reelection effort. It was the Chamber and the cabal of would be ‘movers and shakers’ associated with it that first got Rice elected to Congress and has been as the center of his reelection efforts since. The thought was that Rice and lobbying efforts in Washington would secure funding for the road’s construction.
Whetsell is firmly attached to the I-73 project as the “poll(?)” he conducted last year on the project for the Chamber demonstrates. And Whetsell represents Chamber candidates such as Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune, state Reps. Case Brittain and Tim McGinnis and will represent Mark Lazarus’ attempt to win back the county chairman position he lost in 2018, all with the idea that local tax dollars must be dedicated to I-73.

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More on Crawford Dismissal from CCU

One week ago, local media posted stories on events surrounding the dismissal, in November 2019, of Horry County Council member Cam Crawford from his position at Coastal Carolina University.
According to the stories and documents released by CCU, an investigation into Title IX complaints by a female student who also worked under the supervision of Crawford was conducted by the university. Findings from that investigation supported ‘continuous physical contact with student employee supervisees, which included hugging and touching of hand and/or arm,’ and evidence supporting ‘kissing of a student employee’s head’.
Crawford responded to questions from the media claiming the woman misinterpreted his “Southern mannerisms”, that he did not believe he did anything wrong and that there were political motivations behind the media being informed of his dismissal from CCU.
Nevertheless, a female student registered a complaint with the university, the university conducted an investigation and Crawford is no longer employed by CCU.
Crawford’s response brings to mind statements by former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo when Cuomo resigned as governor after 11 women came forward claiming Cuomo had sexually harassed them.
Cuomo was quoted in media as stating, “As an Italian, I have always kissed and hugged in a casual way, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone… I accept full responsibility, I slipped, but there are political motivations behind the accusations, and I am sure New Yorkers will understand,”
Strikingly similar statements from two politicians on opposite ends of the political spectrum, except Cuomo took responsibility while Crawford did not.
But the similarities between the two cases end there. Once women began stepping forward with accusations against Cuomo, stories continued in the New York media, Cuomo’s former political allies distanced themselves from him and ultimately Cuomo resigned as governor.
In Horry County, Crawford’s leaving CCU employ remained a secret for two years and there has been virtually no comment from other local politicians.
Freedom of Information requests to CCU from two local newspapers were handled completely differently. According to a story in the Sun News, the newspaper filed a FOIA request with the university in October 2021, requesting documents related to “any disciplinary action taken by Coastal…including notices of termination or suspension, reprimands , etc.” as well as “any complaints or other documents submitted to Coastal by students, staff, professors, administration or the public regarding Mr. Crawford, his employment, his job performance and his conduct/behavior.”

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Developers, I-73 and a Déjà Vu Lazarus Candidacy

Recently Horry County Council unanimously approved changes to development density allowed in the Commercial Forest Agriculture zoning classification and former county chairman Mark Lazarus began calling developers looking for support for another run at county chairman.
Lazarus, then the incumbent, lost the 2018 county chairman race to Johnny Gardner in what was one of the biggest upsets in Horry County political history. And he lost it on his own merits, or maybe demerits, is a better term.
Lazarus is the former chairman most allied with the development community in the history of county government. As chairman, Lazarus convinced county council to purchase approximately 3,700 acres of undevelopable wetlands in the Carolina Forest area, at a cost of approximately $12 million taxpayer dollars, paid to a well-known Richmond, Va. developer. The excuse was the county needed to establish a wetlands mitigation bank for future road projects.
Since leaving office on January 1, 2019, Lazarus has been busy lobbying council members for a number of re-zonings of CFA land, especially in the Hwy 90 area.
I don’t know if Lazarus believes he can alter the changes to CFA density if he wins back the county chairman seat, but, considering the unanimous vote by council to change CFA density allowance and continuing pressure from the citizens to reject questionable development, it is not possible that he can.
After Gardner took over the chairman seat, he was able to convince council to institute impact fees on new development to help pay for the cost of new infrastructure and other capital needs associated with that development. Following the discussion among council members during its last meeting, those fees will be expanded to transportation and stormwater impact fees in the coming fiscal year to help pay for much needed upgrades to roads such as 90, 905. 701 and 9 and associated flooding mitigation efforts.
Lazarus preferred to raise property taxes and existing county fees, including leading the passage of the largest single property tax increase in county history in 2015, rather than promote an impact fee law counter to the wishes of his donors and supporters in the development community.

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Rice’s Search to Avoid being Toast Continues

As Tom Rice attempts to justify his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump while also attempting to tout his strong conservative credentials, he and his campaign advisors are still searching for a message that may convince voters to nominate him for a sixth term as the Republican candidate for the SC 7th Congressional District.
If they fail to find a consistent message soon, Rice is ‘toast’ as far as reelection is concerned.
Earlier this month, Rice led off his campaign trying to defend his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump. The message was that Rice is a strong, conservative ‘defender of the Constitution’ who loves all of Trump’s policies but not Trump himself. He claimed Trump “ripped the constitution to shreds” and is a “very divisive man.”
Rice chose to ignore the fact that Trump continues to be the leader of the Republican Party and most influential with the vast majority of Congressional Republicans in Washington.
Last week, former county council chairman Mark Lazarus, who was ousted from his elective office in 2018 because he lost touch with county employees and the voters of Horry County, made a video touting Rice’s experience in Washington as the reason Rice needs to be reelected.
Lazarus, who suffered probably the biggest upset loss in Horry County political history, seemed an odd choice as a kickoff endorsement for the Rice campaign. But, maybe it isn’t a surprising choice because Rice has lost touch with his constituents just as Lazarus did in 2018 and Rice’s campaign consultant Walter Whetsell has obviously lost touch with any messaging for Rice.
There is rumor that Lazarus will take another run at the county council chairmanship in 2022. Maybe Lazarus thinks supporting Rice will gain him votes if he does decide to run, but that only shows how out of touch Lazarus remains with voters in Horry County. Remember, this is ‘Trump Country.’
Lazarus specifically pointed to Rice’s membership on the House Ways and Means Committee, because of the importance of that committee in the legislative drafting process, as a position important to 7th Congressional District citizens.
However, Rice became a pariah in the House Republican caucus when he voted to impeach Trump. To an extent, committee assignments depend on seniority and past service on committees with the party leadership making the assignments. But, changes to committee assignments can be made and it’s hard to see Rice getting anything he wants out of the current House leadership.

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Richardson Listens to Voters on I-73 Issue

As a new push begins for local funding of the Interstate 73 project, Horry County School Board Chairman and 7th Congressional District candidate Ken Richardson has taken a novel approach on the I-73 issue.
Over the past several days, local media has highlighted I-73 propaganda statements by local politicians who, along with the special interests who fund their campaigns, search for $250 million in local government revenue to pledge to the I-73 project.
Interstate 73 has always had a top-down sales approach to voters. Special interests and their PACs, who believe they will gain financially in some way from the construction of I-73, fund the campaign chests of local politicians who then become spokespersons trying to convince voters that I-73 is actually for their (the voters) benefit.
Richardson has taken a different approach. As he travels around Horry County and the other seven counties that make up the 7th Congressional District, Richardson asks voters whether they support the construction of I-73.
“I have given over 50 speeches to groups as small as 6 to as large as 120 since I announced my challenge to Tom Rice for the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District,” Richardson said. “During every speech, I ask for a show of hands from those in attendance who support I-73. So far, in all those events, only one hand has been raised.”
Richardson spoke of one woman at an event in Florence. “She said to me, ‘we always hear how interstates will bring new jobs. Well, we already have two interstates in Florence and we haven’t seen 300 new jobs in the last 10 years.’”
Richardson said a common theme he hears is that local governments and the state government should fix the roads and bridges they already have in place rather than building a new road that won’t be maintained either.
The I-73 project has been a subject of discussion by special interests and the politicians they donate to for at least 30 years. It ramped up nearly 20 years ago when Brad Dean took over the reins of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Horry County has already spent over one-half billion dollars of locally generated hospitality fee (tax) revenues building SC-22. The last approximately 22 miles of I-73 will be on SC-22 from near the 319 exit to the terminus in the Briarcliffe Acres area. SC-22 will need some upgrading on the shoulders to meet interstate highway standards.

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